Esam - Australian Tour Diary , by Eve Esam:
2003 - November 2003 - on the road
July 8, Rod,
myself and our 3 boys locked the gates to our
property on the mid Nth Coast of NSW and started
on our 12 month tour of Australia to promote Rod
as a country music artist and Rods latest
Our first destination, Broken Hill to a little
town on the NSW-SA Border called Cockburn. Rod
was born in Broken Hill and many of his family
live in the area. It seemed appropriate to start
his tour in the Outback, the land where he was
born, the land that taught him his life values.
Rod was also invited by Outback Regional Development
Organisation, ORDO (www.ordo.org.au)
to partner them in a project to help create awareness
and funds for a valuable Outback service, being
the Outback Telecentre Network Inc., OTNI
which is spread over an area of 1,200,000 square
miles. These OTNI telecentres were created when
funds were made available through 'Networking
the Nation', a Federal Government project. The
centres were established in original buildings
of remote communities eg the Cockburns Telecentre
is in their 114 year old school house.
The Centres provide services to not only
their local communities but also for the wider
community including travelers. These services
include, phone, computer, internet access and
IT services, accredited and non accredited education
& training courses, business resources such
as photocopying, faxing, laminating and other
facilities that make them a viable hub for their
local community. Many of the centres include other
services such as Postal, RTA and other Government
services etc and are run by either employees and/or
volunteers. The biggest problem facing these centres
is that once the funds run out, if they have not
found a way to remain self sustainable, they will
be shut down.
Cockburn is a town with a population of
approx 28 people,(www.cockburn.org.au),
which lies on the NSW and SA border 50kms
west of Broken Hill. The town itself is an old
railway town which once bustled with over 1500
people, where steam train engines would be turned
on a large turntable and redirected back to Adelaide.
The only reminder of that era is the old dog bolts
frequently found amongst the salt bush and peppercorn
trees, a weary old timber sign which still stands
telling people to Look For Train and
of course the tall red square water tanks which
are prominently displayed along the sun setting
horizon of the Barrier Highway. These were once
used to fill the steam engines with water along
their route, left now with some old peeling paint
revealing the Angora and Billy Tea advertisements.
Once the railway was shut down so too the town
was to be closed. Except this town was different,
they formed the Cockburn Progress Association
led by Iris Williams and the community started
running and buying back their own town, maintaining
for instance water, electricity, postal service,
waste and recycling. Due to its pro activeness
as a town it then received a new police station,
CFS and SES building, vehicles and training and
then in 1999, ORDO initiated the OTNI Telecentre
grants which saw the Cockburn-Burns Outback Telecentre
and 14 other centres set up in remote communities.
Employed by the Cockburn Telecentre, it was my
job to help create further interest in these centres
by the locals and the surrounding stations of
which there are about 40 as well as co-ordinate
a fundraising concert tour for the network of
Telecentres . We lived in the community in the
old Cockburn police house, complete with a gaol
cell out the back which I threatened the kids
with a few times. This positioned us close to
Rods pop, Jim Williams who was pretty much
Rods hero. Rod wrote the song Gentleman
Jim, Track 4 off the Earthmover
album, about his pop and he now had the opportunity
to help care for and comfort him in his last few
months of life.
Jim was as someone descriptively put it,
as tough as granite. At 91 his muscular strength
and defiant spirit represented the remnants of
an era of hardworking men and women created by
the harshness of the Australian Outback. Pop used
to trap rabbits for a living, he went on to be
a professional Roo shooter. This was the days
before cars. Pop would walk along with his rifle
and would shoot and skin up to 16 kangaroos and
carry the skins on his back, back to camp. If
you can picture that thought in your mind in the
stinking heat of the Outback with all those flies
He told us one day up on the dog fence he saw
a motor car, he laughed, he said that car
was so bloody slow I walked shot and skun 4 Roos
and still bloody kept up with it. He shook
his head after telling that story, he said
You know, now, I wouldnt shoot one of those
poor bastards for a million dollars.
Pop was in the service in the 2nd world war and
was stationed in Darwin. He then went on to become
a boundary rider on the Australian Dingo fence
where it was his job to live out in the middle
of nowhere in the corner country with his family
and maintain his few hundred kms of dog
Pop was dying and was in and out of hospital constantly
over those few months we were there. Rod would
help feed, shave and wash him along with his mum
and Aunties, who were all very close to their
dad. Every time Rod would walk in the door old
pops face would lighten up and the strain would
ease a little for a while. Pops 6 eldest grandsons
from each family carried him to his final resting
place with his Bulldogs cap and an old rabbit
trap proudly displayed on his coffin. It made
me sad seeing each son and grandson, dressed in
their suits and ties, getting into their modern
vehicles for their journey back to their respective
lives each lovingly clutching an old brown rusty
Rod started his gigs around the Broken Hill Clubs
and traveled out to various towns playing in South
Australian Hotels including, Quorn, Olary, Peterborough
and Tibooburra, where he performed at the Family
Hotel for the Starlight Foundation Rally,
where we all had a fantastic night and raised
a lot of money for Starlight which is a foundation
that helps make a wish come true for dying children.
Country Music Clubs also invited him to perform
for their club day and we were warmly welcomed
by the Northern Country Music Association of
SA at Port Pirie and the Barossa Country Music
Club at Nurioopta. These clubs are groups of people
who love their country music and organize a day
usually once a month in their chosen venue where
they prepare lunches, cuppas and goodies and pay
artists to come and perform for them. They are
busy, active people and are a credit to their
The kids were all enrolled into Broken Hill schools
which was a 45 minute drive there and back every
day. The kids made friends easy and often Rod
would drop the kids off spend his day with pop
in the hospital then pick them up to come home.
I worked at the Telecentre organising courses
applicable to the locals and getting the Bringing
Communities to-gether back Outback Tour
underway. Other jobs included the Postal Service
which I found to be an extremely personal and
responsible position. Our two mail carriers Trevor
and Ken would pick up the large bags of station
mail often carrying tyres, gas bottles, spare
parts etc for the stations in their 4WD and head
out up the dusty tracks sometimes not getting
back till late at night. Wed all be up hoping
they werent bogged (if it rained) or had
an accident and always glad to see them home safely.
The winter months were freezing and timber is
not in plentiful supply out there so Rod would
have to keep pops and our fire going with whatever
he could find traveling out in pops ute to find
a dead tree somewhere. I did notice that the garden
sleepers around the house disappeared but as there
were no gardens and they made the house warm I
didnt fuss too much
Our 3 boys had a wonderful time. They experienced
a freedom they never had back at home. They all
turned into Crusty demons, which for those of
you who dont know are dirt bike maniacs.
The biggest problem was their push bike tyres
were always flat with the sharp burrs. So after
spending a fortune on solids and green
tyre gunk they spent hours and hours building
jumps, riding and riding bragging about how much
air they could get off their jumps.
They teamed up with their 12 year old Uncle Kaleb
and the other town teenager Reece, who incidentely
became Zacs Siamese twin. Zac continued
is guitar lessons at the Telecentre over phone
and computer with Peter Groundwaters School
of Music in Taree. Daniel loved most of all
getting out onto Rods sisters and brother
in laws sheep station about an hour Nth West of
where we were based. Apart from occasionally asking
to go home to our real home Jesse at 5 years old
kept up pretty well with the bigger boys.
August 30th we started our 1st leg of the
Telecentre tour up the Oodnadadatta Track,
which follows the old Ghan Railway line, which
stretched from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Stopping
into the Parachillna Hotel Motel where lots of
movies are made was a must before arriving to
the first Telecentre in Maree. Maree was
where the narrow gauge line of the Ghan changed
over to the wider gauge before heading off to
Alice. This town was strongly influenced by Aboriginal
and Afghan families, was once a bustling town
where most were employed by the railway. When
the trains stopped from Adelaide they would have
to unload all the travelers, goods and stock and
re load onto the train to Alice. All the carriages
were cleaned and prepared to return to Adelaide.
The town therefore was a major stock holder where
large holding yards were built to contain cattle,
sheep and camels that were brought in by drovers
before being transported to Alice or Adelaide.
A single concrete station and two huge big Diesel
Engines are all that remains in the centre of
the township with the modern Telecentre occupying
the Historical stone railway station. Its
3pm, school is out and the push bikes start piling
up at the door as the kids scramble to the computers.
Mostly shy aboriginal boys, the older ones are
equipped with their own head sets while the younger
ones capably access their favourite web site,
Bob the Builder was very popular. It is evident
in this town that the children are their main
priority with a large group of them being encouraged
to sing songs at Rods concert. Zac, our
13 year old son, found himself very popular with
the girls aged from 16-8. I think he thought he
was a movie star, and when he did his whip cracking
routine, well there were girls in love everywhere.
Maree is on the way to Birdsville and of
course we were there as the droves of travelers
were passing through heading to the famous Birdsville
Races. Asked by the Hotel to stay in town
for an extra night to entertain the travelers
we became amused by the entourage of big tough,
plastered blokes dressed in T shirts, stubbies,
boardies, boots and/ or thongs from Melbourne
who seemed to prefer Kahlua and milk to beer.
Then a bus would pull up, the girls would race
to the loo, the boys to the bar, theyd all
skull 10 drinks each jump back on the bus and
gone again in a cloud of dust, they were on a
mission to Birdsville.
We left Maree passing through the sourthern end
of Lake Eyre. Always wanting to go to Lake
Eyre when it was filled with water we unfortunately
missed out on the water but were still amazed
at the great expanse of shinning white salt plains.
The road followed the old Ghan line and we stopped
at one of the large bridges which had been built
in the late 1800s. We couldnt help
but feel for the men that worked on that line
so many years ago with no modern conveniences.
No electricity, water, housing, women, just tents,
heat, steel, hard work, flies, more heat, more
hard work and more flies.
We camped overnight at Williams Creek,
it has a pub, two caravan parks and an airport,
well an airstrip. There were little planes going
this way and that, guess where too? YEP-Birdsville.
We spent the next morning learning about the Artesian
Basin with the kids, which really is worth
investigating. It has kept the Outback alive and
some of the water quality is far better than any
town water I know of.
Arriving at Oodnadatta we were greeted
by the jovial relief Policeman as the regular
had gone to Birdsville. He informed us we had
been robbed at Maree and after checking the gear
out we were missing a few more things than just
Rods boots which he claimed he couldnt
find that morning. Lucky for us the thief was
an outer towner and the people of Maree very distressed
about this and had told their (gorgeous by the
way) Policeman what stolen goods he had in his
car. So thanks to Mr gorgeous policeman eventually
we got everything back
. except the boots.
But that wasnt our only drama. When checking
the trailer for lost property we found the carpet
in the back had been friction burnt, puzzled we
investigated further to find the spring hangers
for our axles had broken off and the shear weight
of the trailer had kept it intact
So thanks to Richard the Oodnadatta Telecentre
co-ordinator, the local step toe man Mr Coffey
and Rod, the trailer was re welded and back on
the road at 6am the next morning. We held the
concert in the town hall which was usually set
up for the kids disco and as the trailer was out
of action we had the pleasure of sleeping the
night in the hotel to be woken in the morning
by kangaroos scratching at the door. The residents
of Oodnadatta are mainly aboriginal and the Telecentre
works in well with the school and for tourists
calling in that require communication services.
Next day we arrive at Marla where apparently
only 2 days before the authorities had thought
they had found the missing Falconios genitalia
in a dam. So of course swimming in dams became
instantly non attractive and we went to the pub
instead. The Marlas Rest is a little
like an Oasis and has a large Hotel, Motel with
supermarket shops etc and only just over 400kms
from Alice Springs. We had never been so close
to Alice before and wished we had the time to
keep going Nth. One of the best things about arriving
into Marla was it was the first sealed road in
over 800kms. Not only was the road rough on the
vehicle and trailer it was difficult keeping out
the dust. The Oodnadatta track is not tooooo bad,
but if you want less car damage, take a 4WD or
something suited to the conditions. A quick cold
beer or two and we were off to the Mintabie
Telecentre another 60kms of rough dirt road.
Mintabie is a remote township made up of
many different nationalities mostly being Croation,
we think. You actually have to get a permit to
go to the town, we didnt because we were
stupid, but the local Policemen knew about us
arriving. It is an Opal mining town that seriously
affected my men, as they all came down with opal
The Telecentre is in a large unused Takeaway,
Pizza and Bakery shop. It has included a Kids
club room where the quite large number of local
teenagers hangout on a Friday night in their Music,
Videos, games room. Apparently it is a big thing
for the girls getting dressed up, the makeup and
all. I thought that was a great service for isolated
kids. Their modern school was very well funded
and the town very active. The following day after
the concert one of the locals took us on a tour
of their own opal claim. Anyone can get an opal
claim. You just pay your $150.00/ year and go
and mark out your plot with white stakes. The
area is approx 100m x 50m and you just dig for
your life hoping to get rich. There are rules,
you must never move anyone elses claim boundary
or touch their claim or else you might disappear.
They have been mining opal here for 100 years,
but of course Rod knew instantly how to do it
bigger and better. He wanted to get an excavator
and take his brother Ryan out there who is a Shot
Firer and blast the place to smithereens. The
kids were too busy fighting over who found what
bit of opal, they were like men possessed.
On the road again we decided to stay a couple
of nights in Coober Pedy and Rod sang at
the Yugoslavian Club. Coober Pedy has 57 nationalities
living there. On arriving it is like a moon scape,
with huge ant nest looking mounds in a barren
land where opal frenzied opal miners dig and dig
and dig hoping to make their millions. Many have,
many havent. We did the touristy thing and
went to a museum. It is amazing how the opal is
made from liquid silica which drips from sand
down through the earths crevices forming into
opal over time.
Then onto the bizarre town of Woomera.
There is something about Woomera. A perfectly
kept almost ghost town with huge amounts of interesting
history with the Australian Defence Force and
Space projects now with an unknown future ??????
A stop at Port Augusta and back to Cockburn.
Preparing for the Mildura Country Music Festival
we left September 19 out into NSW Outback Via
Menindee to perform at the Ivanhoe Telecentre.
Menindee is 100kms from Broken Hill and
is home to beautiful lakes which are fed from
the Darling river. It is an agricultural rich
area but this time it made us very sad. If you
have seen our poster the sunset scene is actually
a photo of sunset on Menindee Lakes. The lake
is currently dry, houses and fruit growing properties
up for sale, due to the drought.
Ivanhoe is largely pastoral land and we
enjoyed the night speaking with many of the cockys
that had come to town for the concert. This town
too, severely affected by drought.
Balranald Telecentre our next concert we
enjoyed a peaceful camp on the rivers edge. Once
a busy port for transport of wool, wheat and grains
on the paddle boats the river is now very low,
but the busy little town maintains pastoral lands
with Olive tree plantations doing well.
The Mildura Country Music Festival. This
was Rods first year as an invited artist
and he performed at 20 spots over the Festival.
It is an extremely popular well run Festival with
great venues and great audiences. At this Festival
Rod had the opportunity to be personal with his
audience finding the opportunity to share the
stories of his Album with them. Our Album sold
well and Rod proved pretty popular with the ladies.
Lucky for him the ones I found him giving a cuddle
mostly had white hair. Mildura is a beautiful
town on the Murray River and a must for any traveler.
We were camped at The Palms Caravan Park and set
up the tent for the 2 week stint. With green grass
and shady trees we were able to settle down and
with the help of my good friend Lindy who had
decided to travel with us we started the kids
on their Distance Education.
The Broken Hill Roundup is the following
weekend after Mildura and Rod had the opportunity
again to perform with different bands in the popular
Shows held in the major Broken Hill Clubs.
October 17 was the Yunta Telecentre concert.
Yunta is approx 200kms down the Barrier Highway
towards Adelaide and has a very active Progress
Association. Some very active dancers too as displayed
on the night. We were feeling quite down as pop
had died that week but the liveliness and participation
of the concert goers made us feel at ease and
we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
October 20 we buried Jim Williams, Rods
October 30, 2 weeks behind schedule we
sadly but excitedly left Cockburn, Rod had his
last gig at the West Darling Hotel, which was
a hoot and we were off to QLD.
Before we leave I would like to pay tribute
to the many volunteers we met in the Outback.
Working at Cockburn taught me a lesson about caring
for your community. Tirelessly throughout the
years two women in particular come to mind. Iris
Williams and Janice Allison have dedicated their
lives to their town. Working far many more hours
than the usual 38 paid hours a week without a
grumble doing tasks that vary from official Government
Business, running the local post office to recycling.
There are many others like them and through my
own experiences they have earnt my deepest respect.
Many of our countries population could learn a
lot from them. I know I have.
Outback QLD. Rods gigs included Cunnamulla,
Charleville, Blackall, Longreach and Hughenden.
We were lucky enough to meet the President of
the Charleville Fishing Club who allowed
us to camp at their club grounds for a few nights.
Equipped with the enourmous Yellow Belly
Bar. The club grounds host the annual Rodeo
and Gymkhanas. As for fishing well we werent
sure where that happened so figured the fish shaped
bar determined it was a fishing club. The club
consisted of dedicated workers who daily would
water the grass and maintain the grounds. We spent
Melbourne Cup day at the Charleville races. This
was my first horse race ever and we had a fantastic
day topped off by our day being paid for by Rod
betting $10.00 on the winnng horse.
Drought, drought and more drought is evident
in outback QLD. At Blackall the home
and resting place of the famous Jackie Howe
blade shear Champion no longer has any sheep.
All sold up and moved out.
Longreach looked to be in better condition
and the amount of road kill was testament to that.
We had been longing to go to the Stockmans
Hall of Fame for many years. We were not disappointed
as the museum has a wonderful, modern yet sincere
display of Australias (in particularly Outback)
Heritage. We spent hours in there, the kids learning
so much. Young Jesses favourite display
was of Smoky Dawson. He watched the
film clip 25 times and was captivated by Smokys
talents. In fact we all thought he was a real
To top our day at the Stockmans Hall
of Fame we were in the souvenir shop to find our
Earthmover CD on display for sale.
We felt very proud and honored to have our CD
for sale in such a prominent and respected establishment.
Just to be part of the Stockmans Hall of